A top silk acting for a decorated barrister suing Nine News over reports she claims falsely implied she stole an Insta-famous Cavoodle – has told a court a journalist told a “bald-faced lie” in a broadcast that amounted to a campaign of “harassment”.
The scathing assessment from Gina Edwards’ barrister, Sue Chrysanthou SC, came on the first day of a hotly-contested legal battle centred on Oscar, a celebrity Cavoodle.
Ms Edwards is suing the Nine Network’s A Current Affair program and one of its journalists over two reports centred on the dog.
Barrister Gina Edwards with Oscar the Cavoodle, who is now at the centre of a massive legal fight after Ms Edwards claimed A Current Affair defamed over their reporting of a dispute involving Oscar. Picture: Supplied
Ms Edwards claims the reports, which aired in May and June last year, falsely implied she was a thief who stole Oscar from her owner, Mark Gillespie.
She also claims the reports implied she had exploited the dog for financial benefit and had deliberately attempted to delay court cases surrounding the dog.
Ms Edwards wants the stories removed from the internet and the archives, as well as payment for the damage incurred.
Nine has denied defaming Ms Edwards – a former US Assistant State Attorney for Florida – and has claimed the imputations of theft and stealing were not conveyed.
Gina Edwards (right, pictured with her barrister Sue Chrysanthou) is suing Nine News over broadcasts she claims falsely implied she was a thief and had exploited Oscar the Cavoodle for financial benefit. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw
On Monday at the Federal Court, Ms Chrysanthou said Ms Edwards, her husband Ken Flavell and Mr Gillespie “acted as a family” in caring for the dog.
Ms Chrysanthou told the court the trio had exchanged “thousands” of messages and assigned names like “Mami, Papi” and “Daddy”.
But a civil dispute eventually broke out over the ownership of Oscar.
During this time Mr Gillespie contacted A Current Affair and journalist Steve Marshall.
The Nine News program’s first report captured dramatic footage of Mr Gillespie grabbing the dog from a park in Kirribilli while Ms Edwards chased him.
Ms Chrysanthou said during the broadcasts, her client and husband were referred to as “dog sitters” and a claim was made that Ms Edwards “never wanted to visit him as a pup”.
Mr Gillespie was filmed repeatedly claiming Oscar belonged to him and that Ms Edwards was trying to steal the dog from him, she told the court.
Nine’s lawyers, including Dauid Sibtain (far right), who are defending the suit. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw
“The thousands of photos and text messages … show Mr Gillespie is utterly lying,” Ms Chrysanthou said.
She accused Mr Marshall of perpetuating a “bald-faced lie” by claiming they simply “bumped” into both Mr Gillespie and Ms Edwards in the park when they had actually orchestrated the confrontation.
“Just lie after lie after lie,” Ms Chrysanthou said.
“Mr Gillespie used the media to put improper pressure on my clint during the court proceedings … in the face of repeated advice he not take the matter to the press.”
Ms Chrysanthou told the court her client was a reader for the bar at the time Nine’s programs were broadcast.
She described the publications as a “six-month campaign” of “harassment” as her client was pursued at work, home and court.
“There is nothing in these publications that resembles the work of journalists,” Ms Chrysanthou said.
The hearing, before Justice Michael Wigney, continues.